Yes, “Long Distance Runaround” from Fragile (1971): YESterdays

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On the surface, Yes’ “Long Distance Runaround” seems like a rather direct take on religious duplicity. However, as we all know nothing the world’s greatest progressive rock band does is direct.

This song, which served as the B-side to Yes’ No. 13 13 hit “Roundabout,” confounds with its three-and-a-half minute running time, too. It’s the shortest of the non-solo tracks on 1971’s Fragile. “Long Distance Runaround” also is one of the most rollicking Jon Anderson compositions to have held a place Yes setlists.

Anderson, producer Eddy Offord and the band arrange the song with a plethora of progressive elements which only add to its stature in the Yes music canon. Based in b minor, “Long Distance Runaround” combines conventional rock 4/4 timing in the verses with polyrhythmic 5/8. Bill Bruford’s drum track by itself is a master class in music making.

The intro combination of Steve Howe’s Gibson and Rick Wakeman’s harpsichord performing the main theme is inventive and awe-inspiring. Chris Squire is not left out of the fun. He walks his bass up and down the scale in a galloping rhythm, matching Bill Bruford’s enthusiasm. Squire at times harmonizes with Howe’s guitar and Wakeman’s electric piano, then suddenly breaks away to support the main rhythms. This is heady stuff.

Of course, Chris Squire’s worth is not just measured in his groundbreaking bass playing. He also sings harmony with Anderson, which is interwoven perfectly. Anderson sings the first two verses and chorus alone, but Squire’s unique timbre is added by the second chorus — boosting “Long Distance Runaround” up another level. Did you miss the Steve Howe guitar solo? Yes, this is a classic progressive rock song without a guitar or keyboard solo.

Jon Anderson’s lyrics are obtuse yet enchanting, but he is uncharacteristically direct — and the lyrics to “Long Distance Runaround” rank among his best up until this point in Yes’ history.

Preston Frazier’s YESterdays is a song-by-song feature that explores the unforgettable musical legacy of Yes. The series runs every other Tuesday.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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